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Leovinus
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The Giant aircraft That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:46 am

The Giants That Failed
I thought I'd start this thread for all those curious about the alluring giants that failed through history. This forum is filled with tit-bits through out countless historical threads. But some things are worth revisiting.

Below is my contribution to the topic. The first part is about American giants, and I'll make follow-on posts in the thread about British and French aircraft as I finish them. Hopefully I do their individual historical contexts justice.

Picture courtesy of FlightGlobal:
Image

The American Giants
During the inter-war years America quickly established a thriving aircraft manufacturing sector. Though initially reliant on imported aircraft from the likes of massively influential Dutch Fokker; Boeing, Curtiss, Sikorsky (and many, many, more) quickly stood out as increasingly important aircraft manufacturers in their own right. The First World War had shown the need for air power, and the looming second war promised to be won by securing the air. The cottage industry of American manufacturers consequently grew into proper power houses as increasing government contracts for larger and larger aircraft, and a steady growth of national and international air travel, fuelled demand. America was poised to become the preeminent aircraft manufacturer, and primary market, even before WWII began.

Nearing World War II the Boeing 307 and 314 Clipper, Douglas DC-3, and Lockheed Electra were making a great showing against the Europeans. It was also becoming evident that America was likely to be involved in any war that erupted despite its neutrality. And with long distances to American or Asian shores larger aircraft would be needed. It’s frankly hard to fathom how aircraft design went from the “mighty” Douglas DC-4E (a large experimental passenger aircraft, rejected for the smaller eventual DC-4) to the absolutely giant B-36 Peacemaker bomber in less than a decade.

One of the most instrumental airlines pushing for this development in the civilian sphere was Pan American, or Pan Am for short. Director Juan Trippe was a fierce proponent of air travel for the masses and a bit of a visionary. Not afraid to dream big, but not blinded enough to stray from pragmatism either. Together with his competition he cultivated the manufacturing field into a fertile battleground. When one moved, so did the others. Certainly, Pan Am was not alone, but its influence can not be understated. As proven by the fact that this one company would be pivotal in pushing for all of the aircraft listed below.

Consolidated XC-99 / Model 37
Development of the giant XC-99 transport plane began almost in parallel with the famous “father” of the airframe, the Consolidated B-36. Already in 1942 development for the B-36 was far advanced, and that year the Army Air Force ordered a cargo version of it as well. At the time the Army Air Force knew it needed transport aircraft (The Hughes H-4 Hercules was an answer to the same need) and would continue to do so in the future. They also knew such aircraft would need to be gigantic, and structural gigantism is incredibly difficult to engineer for. It would require experience to be gained in building, serving, handling, and keeping such aircraft to be entirely reinvented. Therefore full production of the XC-99 was not guaranteed by the initial order.

The XC-99 transport derivative (then code-named XB-36) was also assumed to be ready much sooner than the bomber. Meaning it could serve as its test bed. It would not have the same strict demands as the bomber, primarily the gargantuan 10,000 mile range requirement, to contend with. It would retain the bombers wing, tail, engines, and landing gear mated to an entirely new fuselage and cockpit. The latter two were not considered as a risk at all by Consolidated apparently, being seen as an “easy” modification.

What resulted was an aircraft that could carry 400 fully equipped troops or 100,000 pounds of cargoes over a distance of 1,720 miles at 292 mph, with a maximum speed of 335mph and maximum height of 30,000 feet. Two decks held a combined 16,000 cubic feet of space. If it was flown with a minimal payload of 10,000 pounds the range was an enormous 8,100 miles.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia:
Image

Pan Am proved to be very interested even during the ongoing war. With the right aircraft, the right economy, and the right traffic rights it would be able to compete with ocean liners. Though it should be remembered that this mode of transport would be the primary one even for the elite up until the 60s. Seeing the XC-99s potential director Juan Trippe made an order for 15 with options for 3 more “Super Clippers” to be produced come wars end.

Pan Am’s contract stipulated that it should be capable of lifting 204 passengers and 15,300 pounds of bagage and freight. Propulsion was specified to be turboprops, development of which had already started by the time of Germanys fall in 1945 in Britain. It wasn’t going to be a tourist class aircraft. Interiors were to be made up of a mixture of day seats, sleeper berths, and lounges with proper galleys for a full first class experience. An interesting note is that Pan Am also asked that a flying boat derivative be studied, but the draggy hull design impacted range, though it improved carry capacity. Though my source doesn’t list the original range expected of the land variant, the flying boat would have had a range of 4,200 miles at 25,000 feet and 332 mph. The conventional plane would have been 10 mph faster, longer ranged, and with a higher service ceiling.

Now this was not just a paper plane. While no passenger version was eventually built for Pan Am, full mockups of fuselage sections with interiors were produced for Pan Am by Convair (the new name of Consolidated as it had combined with Vultee during the war). These interiors weren’t entirely unlike what would be seen in the Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser, only at a grander scale.

Picture courtesy of James Vaughn on Flickr.com:
Image

The sources I have at hand don’t discuss why the project fell through. But I can speculate. I suggest that the lack of turboprops were the main failing of the project. Aside from Germany and Britain the United States didn’t yet have jet technology at wars end. And even if jets were quickly licensed from the brits, these weren’t yet powerful or economical enough to supplant the tried and true piston-engine.

It’s also evident that the world wasn’t ready for gigantic aircraft. Only a few runways would have been able to take the aircraft in the beginning. And its doubtful that its primary transatlantic route would have been politically possible using the Model 37. At the wars end the precursor to ICAO was created, which heavily regulated ticket prices, passenger numbers, and flight routes airlines from different nationalities could use. Besides which it was evident that the luxury aircraft of the pre-war era were not going to be what was asked for in the post-war one.

Source is mainly volume 24 on the Peacemaker by Dennis R. Jenkins in the WARBIRDTECH series of books.

Lockheed R6V Constitution
Where the Consolidated Model 37 sprung from a military design on Pan Am’s behest, the Lockheed Constitution made the opposite journey. Being a product of Pan Am’s request for study of a new long range airliner in 1942, the concept for which also became picked up by the navy for its transport requirements. In fact the maximum capacity asked for was the same as for the Model 37 – 204 passengers. But 51 seated and 58 passengers in sleeper berths for 109 passengers would be its standard arrangement.

Development was slow however. Lockheed was busy churning out military aircraft for the war. Though the Navy ordered prototypes in 1943 the entire project was of a decidedly low priority. First flight wasn’t achieved until 1946, at which point Pan Am had dropped the Constitution in favour of the Boeing B-377. A smaller aircraft, more quickly available, and using mostly proven technology from the C-97 transport derivative of the mighty B-29/B-50 series of bombers. The B-377 entered service only two months after the prototype Constitution rolled out of the factory.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia:
Image

Lockheeds resulting aircraft was a highly slender and graceful design with a pronounced “double-bubble” fuselage for two decks with mid-mounted wings in between them. Initially it carried four R-4360 piston engines, but in development Wright “Typhoon” turboprops were proposed. Pan Am proved happy with the B-377 as it was however.

But it proved a formidable aircraft. It could cruise at 269mph with a service ceiling of 27,500 feet with a maximum range and fuel load of 6,300 miles at 238 mph. The two built examples served with the Navy in different roles until they were scrapped.

And that’s as much as I know of the aircraft. Why wasn’t it a success? Again I can only speculate. Perhaps it turned out that it was more expensive to buy and operate than more of smaller aircraft like the Lockheed Constellation. Aircraft in wider use, with plenty of spare parts and service already. Perhaps the ICAO restrictions made them tricky to make profitable? My own guess is that with no military orders the few airframes that could be sold to civilian hands simply became too expensive on a per-unit basis. Lockheed certainly wouldn’t produce them at a loss. This same logic can be seen in another project. The Douglas C-74 below. And again, perhaps Pan Am simply realised that the time was not yet ready for such large aircraft in the post-war environment.

Source is mainly Naval Fighters number 83 written by Steve Ginter.

Douglas C-74 Globemaster / DC-7
As Japan bombed Pearl Harbor the impetus to get a dedicated cargo aircraft to span vast distances became acute. The Army Air Corps contracted Douglas to meet their requirement in 1942 and development began. The order was initially for some 50 examples plus test frames, though only 14 would eventually be built. Difficulties in getting the right engines and requirements down, and a slide in priority downwards, meant delays. The first example wouldn’t roll out of the hangar until 1945. Though a three year production time is nothing to sneeze at.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia showing the initial bug-eyed canopy:
Image

For a brief moment it was the largest aircraft in the world, with a carrying capacity of 125 passengers or outsized cargoes. Four P&W R-4360 piston engines carried it aloft to a cruising speed of 212mph and a service ceiling of 21,300 feet. Range would be about 3,400 miles. None of the 14 produced ever received pressurisation, but the airframe was designed to accommodate it. Douglas had its eyes firmly set on a dual civilian and military purpose from the very start. An early design quirk that soon gave way was the interesting “bug-eye” canopies for pilot and co-pilot. While visually interesting, dare I say appealing, it was deplored by air crew. Though giving great visibility it hindered communication in the cockpit. The solution was far less aesthetic. Looking like a poorly integrated and slab sided glass shed stuck on top. Though it made air crews happier.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia, showing the cockpit “shed” as I call it:
Image

Pan Am, ever watchful for new giant aircraft in the period it seemed, approached Douglas already in 1942, but made a conditional contract only in 1944 for 26 civilian versions of the C-74 dubbed DC-7. They specified a passenger capacity of 108 split into two compartments with an eye towards a non-stop luxury South American service from all the major cities in the US.

However the end of the war gave Pan Am, and other airliners who had showed interest, pause. It became obvious that the sort of luxury travel envisioned for the pre-war era wasn’t the way of the future. Pan Am went with the smaller, yet still gigantic, Boeing B-377 in its stead. A decision helped markedly by the fact that per-unit price rose dramatically as the Army Air Corp dropped their orders. The plane flew too late to take part in the war effort. Korea was still not a pressing an issue, and Douglas had gained enough experience with the C-74 to develop a true military cargo plane in its stead. The C-124 Globemaster II that was better suited for the job regardless. Douglas focused on improving the DC-6 in its stead, producing the DC-7 as competition for the Super Constellations offered by Lockheed.

Sources mainly Air Force Legends number 206 written by Earl Berlin and Airliner Tech volume 4 written by Harry Gann.
Last edited by SQ22 on Fri Jul 02, 2021 5:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Typo fixed
 
SteelChair
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:20 pm

I'm sure there will be more comprehensive replies, but
my thought is that in the immediate post-war economy, there weren't enough people with enough money to create sufficient market demand. By the time that there was (10-15 years give or take), the jets had appeared.

The maintenance requirements for those old pistons was almost unbelievable by today's standards. I read that after a long B-36 mission, all the spark plugs had to be changed, a very labor intensive job to say the least. And the first turboprops were problematic from a safety perspective. Both the C-133 and the Electra had major safety problems related to the engines/props.

Thanks for the research and the pictures!
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:43 pm

SteelChair wrote:
I'm sure there will be more comprehensive replies, but
my thought is that in the immediate post-war economy, there weren't enough people with enough money to create sufficient market demand. By the time that there was (10-15 years give or take), the jets had appeared.

The maintenance requirements for those old pistons was almost unbelievable by today's standards. I read that after a long B-36 mission, all the spark plugs had to be changed, a very labor intensive job to say the least. And the first turboprops were problematic from a safety perspective. Both the C-133 and the Electra had major safety problems related to the engines/props.

Thanks for the research and the pictures!


My absolute pleasure. I do this stuff to de-stress.

And I've understood it in more or less the same way as you. All of the failed giants share one thing in common: They were developed before the post-war market was known. Most of the development was done on educated guesses based on what came before, with post-war economy being completely unknown and appeared wildly different than apparently expected. Granted, they might have worked in some limited capacity, but as you mention new technology was on the horizon by that point. Cheaper, simpler, and better technology. Why invest in an expensive fleet of lumbering sky-ocean liners when they'd be entirely outmoded, uneconomical, and completely uncompetitive in less than a decade?
 
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Boeing757100
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 12:54 pm

I think that another big flop was the Bristol Brabazon.
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DH106
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:10 pm

Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that another big flop was the Bristol Brabazon.


That was British though, not American.
The OP was dealing initially with American.
...I watched c-beams glitter in the dark by the Tanhauser Gate....
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:12 pm

DH106 wrote:
Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that another big flop was the Bristol Brabazon.


That was British though, not American.
The OP was dealing initially with American.




Oh sorry, didn't realize that. But, many of the pictures and descriptions for the other planes just reminded me of the Brabazon...
Going to ATL airport in 2019 is like being in 2013
Going to ATL airport in 2010 is like being in 2000
Going to ATL airport in 1998 is like being in 1988
Going to ATL airport in 2035 is like watching paint dry
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:17 pm

Boeing757100 wrote:
DH106 wrote:
Boeing757100 wrote:
I think that another big flop was the Bristol Brabazon.


That was British though, not American.
The OP was dealing initially with American.




Oh sorry, didn't realize that. But, many of the pictures and descriptions for the other planes just reminded me of the Brabazon...


Oh the Brabazon is very similar. Polishing a post with her in it right now that I hope to add it in this thread in the weekend.
 
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macsog6
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:33 pm

If you want to see a close up of the C-74, get a copy of the original version of the movie, The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine. The C-74 in the movie was abandoned at Milan, Italy in 1969. It was painted in the colors of the fictitious Communist Chinese Civil Aviation Airlines that delivered the gold to FIAT in Turin. Later moved to Turin airport, it caught fire while on public display on 11 June 1970 and again on 24 September 1970 while it was being salvaged, unfortunately taking two lives.
Sixty Plus Years of Flying! "I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." - Saint Ex
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:54 pm

macsog6 wrote:
If you want to see a close up of the C-74, get a copy of the original version of the movie, The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine. The C-74 in the movie was abandoned at Milan, Italy in 1969. It was painted in the colors of the fictitious Communist Chinese Civil Aviation Airlines that delivered the gold to FIAT in Turin. Later moved to Turin airport, it caught fire while on public display on 11 June 1970 and again on 24 September 1970 while it was being salvaged, unfortunately taking two lives.


Really? I'll have to think about that for whenever I decide to have another classic movie night. I remember it being a good film to boot, but didn't know to look for the air.

The C-74 strikes me as having been the more likely to survive in the post-war era. Being of a smaller size than the other giants. But I certainly see how a DC-6 derivative was more economical. All the tooling, production lines, and commonality in parts and support would have required ground breaking economy from the airframe. But at the limits of piston power there was little more efficiency to eek out. A light, smaller, airframe would like have been the logical way to go.
 
TW870
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:25 pm

Leovinus-

Love this thread and your opening post!

As far as what killed the prewar-designed giants, I think it had much more to do with propulsion limitations that market conditions. Yes, there was economic turbulence in the U.S. in 1946, but the economy had roared back by the late-1940s, and I think they could have made use of an airplane as large and opulent of the Convair 37 - if it would have performed anything like it was supposed to.

All those cruise figures you posted are correct, but they would have been virtually impossible to achieve. To get up that high and go that fast, you had to use turbosupercharging to increase manifold pressure. This added heat and mechanical stress to the core components of the engine, making it much more likely that the engine would self destruct while it was running, or need constant component changes on stopovers. Even on the much smaller, more realistic DC-7 and Super Constellation, they rarely flew the advertised cruise performance, and instead stayed down low around 12,000 feet and flew slow to keep the engines cool. Frames as giant and heavy as the Constitution or the Convair 37 would have worked the engines far harder. Therefore, the only way to keep the operation semi-reliable would have been to take a huge hit on speed, payload, and range.

What I do love is how ambitious these projects were. There was basically no way they would have worked out. But they built and flew the airplanes anyway, which I really respect! The MAX and the NEO are reasonable, but they are profoundly unambitious projects.
 
khaba
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:27 pm

between this and your other thread about converted bombers, these are great posts. I'd buy the book.
 
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NameOmitted
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Sat Jun 12, 2021 1:00 am

Failed, but only because they were ahead of their time.

204 passengers, sub 5k mile range? Re-engine these beasts and we have our MOM!

Seriously, thanks for these posts.
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Sat Jun 12, 2021 8:12 am

TW870 wrote:
Leovinus-

Love this thread and your opening post!

As far as what killed the prewar-designed giants, I think it had much more to do with propulsion limitations that market conditions. Yes, there was economic turbulence in the U.S. in 1946, but the economy had roared back by the late-1940s, and I think they could have made use of an airplane as large and opulent of the Convair 37 - if it would have performed anything like it was supposed to.

All those cruise figures you posted are correct, but they would have been virtually impossible to achieve. To get up that high and go that fast, you had to use turbosupercharging to increase manifold pressure. This added heat and mechanical stress to the core components of the engine, making it much more likely that the engine would self destruct while it was running, or need constant component changes on stopovers. Even on the much smaller, more realistic DC-7 and Super Constellation, they rarely flew the advertised cruise performance, and instead stayed down low around 12,000 feet and flew slow to keep the engines cool. Frames as giant and heavy as the Constitution or the Convair 37 would have worked the engines far harder. Therefore, the only way to keep the operation semi-reliable would have been to take a huge hit on speed, payload, and range.

What I do love is how ambitious these projects were. There was basically no way they would have worked out. But they built and flew the airplanes anyway, which I really respect! The MAX and the NEO are reasonable, but they are profoundly unambitious projects.


Yea, your point about the engines is something that I've reflected on when reading about the Super Constellation, B-377, and DC-7 as compared to the far longer lived Constellation and DC-6 as well. The Super-, Turbo-, and Compoundcharging of piston engines was brilliant but made them incredibly complex and prone to failure. Having that many moving parts survive hours of heat, vibration, soot, and stress was just too much to ask with the tech of the time. I've been reading SAS old quarterly reports from the 50s and 60s, and it's obvious that the DC-7 was to be an expensive and short lived stop-gap. They ordered the DC-8 at the same time basically. And once the DC-8 took over the DC-7s were quickly sold off, with the reliable DC-6 redirected to less premium routes or cargo (some dc-7s were also used for this purpose, but most were sold off). The long range and maintenance headaches of the DC-7 just weren't appetising in the reshuffle that followed the jets introduction. And it all centered on the engines.

It does make me wonder however. If the jets hadn't been on the horizon, what kind of development in piston power would we have seen? It's easy to say it's the dead end, but in reality it was the dead end of that generation of piston engines. I know Rolls Royce was developing an entirely new and incredibly powerful piston engine based on sleeve-valves instead of ordinary poppet valves at the end of WW2 called Crecy. The fuel consumption was immense, but if this and other technologies had been allowed to mature... who knows? Maybe these giants would have become practical? In a sense they would have had to be since they would have been the only option.

You can watch a fascinating YouTube video by Curious Droid (A channel I can highly recommend) on the Rolls Royce Crecy engine here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxK_zWgw6gY
 
TW870
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Sat Jun 12, 2021 3:40 pm

Leovinus wrote:
TW870 wrote:
Leovinus-

Love this thread and your opening post!

As far as what killed the prewar-designed giants, I think it had much more to do with propulsion limitations that market conditions. Yes, there was economic turbulence in the U.S. in 1946, but the economy had roared back by the late-1940s, and I think they could have made use of an airplane as large and opulent of the Convair 37 - if it would have performed anything like it was supposed to.

All those cruise figures you posted are correct, but they would have been virtually impossible to achieve. To get up that high and go that fast, you had to use turbosupercharging to increase manifold pressure. This added heat and mechanical stress to the core components of the engine, making it much more likely that the engine would self destruct while it was running, or need constant component changes on stopovers. Even on the much smaller, more realistic DC-7 and Super Constellation, they rarely flew the advertised cruise performance, and instead stayed down low around 12,000 feet and flew slow to keep the engines cool. Frames as giant and heavy as the Constitution or the Convair 37 would have worked the engines far harder. Therefore, the only way to keep the operation semi-reliable would have been to take a huge hit on speed, payload, and range.

What I do love is how ambitious these projects were. There was basically no way they would have worked out. But they built and flew the airplanes anyway, which I really respect! The MAX and the NEO are reasonable, but they are profoundly unambitious projects.


Yea, your point about the engines is something that I've reflected on when reading about the Super Constellation, B-377, and DC-7 as compared to the far longer lived Constellation and DC-6 as well. The Super-, Turbo-, and Compoundcharging of piston engines was brilliant but made them incredibly complex and prone to failure. Having that many moving parts survive hours of heat, vibration, soot, and stress was just too much to ask with the tech of the time. I've been reading SAS old quarterly reports from the 50s and 60s, and it's obvious that the DC-7 was to be an expensive and short lived stop-gap. They ordered the DC-8 at the same time basically. And once the DC-8 took over the DC-7s were quickly sold off, with the reliable DC-6 redirected to less premium routes or cargo (some dc-7s were also used for this purpose, but most were sold off). The long range and maintenance headaches of the DC-7 just weren't appetising in the reshuffle that followed the jets introduction. And it all centered on the engines.

It does make me wonder however. If the jets hadn't been on the horizon, what kind of development in piston power would we have seen? It's easy to say it's the dead end, but in reality it was the dead end of that generation of piston engines. I know Rolls Royce was developing an entirely new and incredibly powerful piston engine based on sleeve-valves instead of ordinary poppet valves at the end of WW2 called Crecy. The fuel consumption was immense, but if this and other technologies had been allowed to mature... who knows? Maybe these giants would have become practical? In a sense they would have had to be since they would have been the only option.

You can watch a fascinating YouTube video by Curious Droid (A channel I can highly recommend) on the Rolls Royce Crecy engine here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxK_zWgw6gY


Great post and I will watch that video for sure.

The way I think about it is that for the standard reciprocating radial, there was no real effective platform above the Pratt&Whitney R-2800 at 2,500hp in an airline application. The R-3350 was too self-destructive when you ran it in full throttle, high-blower cruise, and the R-4360 was impossible to keep cool because the air flow couldn't cool the rear cylinders well enough.

I understand that CAB regulation made airlines compete on schedule, and thus that they needed to be able to advertise the fast schedule times of the DC-7 and Super Constellation, but if I was running an airline in the 1950s, I would have been tempted to just keep the DC-6, skip the -7 or Super Connie, and wait for the jets. Sure you had to stop more often and fly a little slower, but you could actually use the whole power chart and the engine would perform as expected. Fewer unscheduled stops and long delays.

Then again, TWA did a really good job of mastering the R-3350. I don't believe they ever killed anyone on a transatlantic Connie crossing in fifteen years they operated long haul with that airplane. They had a bad accident on a regional European flight out of Milan on a 1649, and they lost an L-049 at Midway in the early-1960s. But I don't think they ever put one down in the ocean.

Bottom line is, these engine issues are really what killed the giants.
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Sat Jun 12, 2021 7:12 pm

The Giants That Failed - Part II
And so I've finished up the second part I had in mind for this thread. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The British Situation
While the British would also build their fair share of failed giants, I think it’s important to explain the context of their gestation. Which differed markedly from their American counterparts.

Long before wars end the British realised that they would need a plan for post-war aviation. It was still an empire with far flung colonies that needed connecting, it had a vast and diverse aircraft manufacturing sector that would have nothing to do after the war, and it had lagged behind in transport aircraft both before and during the war. This would give the Americans, with their streamlined factories and massive R&D investments, a leg-up in any future international competition. Churchill therefore ordered Lord Brabazon of Tara to chair a committee to make plans for the future industry. Lord Brabazon was eminently suitable for this task, with a deep passion and understanding of flying. In fact he was the first Brit to hold a civilian flying license.

Many probably know of Brabazons eponymous committee, whose specifications would develop over time. But roughly their planning laid out the following requirements:

  • Type I – A giant transatlantic airliner capable of carrying 100,000 pounds, non-stop preferred but refuelling in Gander acceptable.
  • Type II – Medium range feeder aircraft, which would evolve into the Vickers Viscount and Airspeed Ambassador
  • Type III – A medium to long haul aircraft for “empire” trunk routes. I.e. one that would hop its way across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. This was initially to be the Avro Tudor, a project whose failure would have far reaching consequences for British aviation. In large parts the blame lay with government and BOAC interference. Perhaps markedly the intransigence of BOAC who didn’t want it. They would have to settle for the alternative, which they also didn’t want, in the shape of the Handley Page Hermes until they could get their hands on the Bristol Britannia. Which they wanted, until they didn't. (It's easy to blame BOAC but I think you, too, will give them some slack if you read on)
  • Type IV – This was projected to be a small jet powered mailplane, but De Havilland convinced the committee and BOAC that they could make a passenger aircraft out of this newfangled technology. One that only Britain (and the Broken Germans) possessed. It would become the glorious Comet.
  • Type V – A small aircraft that would become the quirky looking but compelling De Havilland Dove

Frankly, the ideas were generally good. The execution… horrendous. Mainly as there were far too many competing interests and too narrow a scope with much confusion over what should be prioritised. Britain had hardly been a large flying nation before the war. Its biggest airline, Imperial Airways, was a private venture that had grown organically and collaborated closely with the national aircraft manufacturers for bespoke aircraft in small numbers to fit their needs. Couple that with a nascent regulatory framework and there was much groundwork needed.

Government interest lay in balancing a need to secure jobs, get industry up to date to stay competitive, and to furnish the British sphere of interest with their products. Their future customers needs and wants surmised, broadly, to be the same as the needs suggested by nationalised airlines BOAC (Empire and international routes) and BEA (European and national routes). In the end this meant taking much too narrow a view, and both government and BOAC/BEA were allowed an unprecedented amount of input to tailor products for their calculated (and sadly... often recalculated) needs.

The nationalised airlines also had their own interests. While ordered to "Buy British" and allowed great amounts of input, this was all for naught if they couldn't be profitable and competitive. With about 9 types of aircraft in the immediate post-war period the airline desperately needed rationalising. And there were no national alternatives early on. Foreign buys were a desperate necessity at odds with government. Something that wasn't helped by the fact that, primarily BOAC, was a merged company with widely different corporate identities that in some places of the merged business were mixing like oil and water. The corporation often felt overrun and without a voice in government to counter politicians fancies too. Only in the 60s did BOAC get a clear mandate to run a profitable airline before other concerns. Uncertainty on priorities and expectation for reimbursements of loss-making ventures nagged them since its beginning to end basically.

But why was the execution lacklustre? Well, Britain knew it was far behind. America already had the Constellation, DC-6, and soon the B-377 in production even by the end of the European war. Britain had nothing. There was little time to take detailed stock of all requirements and realities, but it was evident that the competition out of the gate would be harsh. Educated guesses would have to do and be refined as much as possible over time. It was a plan with the best of intentions that fell to new and unforseen realities. It's little comfort perhaps, but at least the previously portrayed American giants failed much to the same flawed assumptions about the future.

As an additional complexity to add to this already vexing tale was the fact that neither BOAC or BEA, or indeed the Brabazon Committee, were the actual contracting authority for any of the aircraft proposed. Contracting was done by government through different ministries over time (names and fields of purview changed). But early on orders were secured by the Ministry of Supply. As luck would have it this grasp over the airlines contracting ability would loosen with time. But as history shows, far too late to have an impact.

It is in this context the first of the British giants were born.

Bristol Brabazon
Why the Type I aircraft was ever really cleared in committee is actually a bit unclear. BOAC had been on the committee since 1942 and never stated a requirement for it. In fact mostly questioning it. From the pages of Robin Highams excellent book on BOAC it seems as though the aircraft simply continued to get accepted for production by one means or another. Bristol was chosen for its production as it had been working on a giant bomber in utmost secret until the end of the war. This experience was seen as useful to put to use on the new Type I. The Brabazon. With full backing of government, and one assumes confused acceptans by BOAC, the project surged ahead by 1944. The Brabazon would be enormously costly, but would instrumental in Britains catching up to the Americans in aircraft production. If one could separate the value of the knowledge gained in construction from the “ordinary” cost of developing an aircraft the Brabazon wouldn’t have been exceedingly expensive. As a complete package, and for the fact that BOAC never wanted it, it was a complete and very public failure.

Image courtesy of airlineratings.com
Image

But was it destined to be? Canadian Pacific was interested in an aircraft of roughly the same size and configuration, so was Pan Am as evidenced by the Model 37 and the Lockheed R6V. France was was also in need of a large long range aircraft (and would go on to develop the Sud-Est Armagnac for that role). While tepid, the demand seemed to at least be plausible. American giants were also in development. A British answer wasn't without merit, so the project lived on this hope. But already in 1945 the writing was on the wall. The Brabazon I would not be competitive. By 1950 the government tried to attach trooping contracts as a valuable boon to the Brabazon, but this eventually came to nothing despite BOAC’s interest perking markedly. You see, I didn't tell you about this last bit while describing the British situation: Parts of the British government had always been keen on nurturing a small brigade of independent airlines. Basically purposefully inviting competition to government corporations that were already loss-making by virtue of not being able to make decisions for themselves. Now it saw funds and profitable routes actively directed away from their supposed domain!

The disillusionment within BOAC with the government by the 1950’s must have been palpable. But by sheer luck BOAC managed to switch the Brabazon for Bristol Britannias in its stead. And with the much more promising turboprop Britannia and the jet powered Comet the corporation would be able to slim its fleet from 9 to 2 aircraft types and finally be on the road to profitability. And world beatingly competitive. As history shows this didn’t come to pass either however. Bristol and Britain tried to sell the Brabazon abroad throughout, but it was evident that it was not to be. The program was finally and definitely cancelled in 1953.

Image courtesy of Tom Wigley on Flickr.com
Image

What was the Brabazon then? A flying palace. She was constructed for some 80 passengers, though technically capable of flying some 300 in its spacious near wide-body fuselage. It would be subdivided in lounges, seating, and even a cinema area oner several levels. To lift her enormous bulk 8 piston engines, grouped in four pairs of two engines each to drive counterrotating propellers through a massively heavy and complex gearbox, drove her to a measly 250 mph. The proposed Mk.II would use turboprops to nearly double that speed, making the Atlantic crossing in a mere 12 hours. Of note is not only the roomy fuselage, but also the wingspan which was greater than that of the much later 747.

Image courtesy of airlineratings.com
Image

But for all its economical failings it was beautiful. And innovative. The skin gauges varied across the aircraft to make it as light as possible while strong enough. Complex hydraulic and electrical systems were used throughout. New materials, riveting, and joining techniques were developed for her. She brought British aviation industry forward, but she was not herself to be.

Source is mainly Robin Highams book on BOAC

Saunders Roe Princess
At the time of the Brabazon Committee there were early discussions on a giant flying boat to fulfil the Type I specification. While this was eventually mooted, the Australian representatives on the committee had shown some interest. Outside of the committee, too, were interested parties. Saunders-Roe, keen to find a purpose after the war, proposed the giant Saunders Roe Princess directly to the Ministry of Supply, who promptly proposed it to BOAC, in 1946. Interest would be a strong word, BOAC was curious about the proposal. The MoS itself was delighted and ordered Saunders-Roe to proceed with development. But while BOAC was only curious, one of the independent airlines with good financial backing from shipping lines, British South American Aaiways (BSAA) with its near monopoly on South American air travel showed great interest in the giant.

Development was swift. By 1951 the first Princess was mainly complete. It had two main decks atop a chined hull structure, a broad shoulder mounted wing reminiscent of the Bristol Brabazons with retracting floats, and 10 turboprop engines (coincidentally designed by Bristol to be fitted on the mooted MK.II, and later the Britannia) coupled with four pairs driving contra rotating propellers through a gearbox with two engines driving single screws. While BOAC helped with input on interior design it stressed that this courtesy was NOT an implied agreement to buy the aircraft. What resulted was a passenger capacity of 105 however. A mix of first class and tourist, with bar, cabins, and dining room. It was a massive aircraft. And as a result it was slow despite its turboprops. Only getting up to a speed of 280mph in tests. Not helped by the fact that the engines were still developing, and not yet at their stipulated power-output.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Image

BOAC remained curious however. Studies were made internally on what was required to handle the aircraft. But the increasing unit-costs meant that the three models under construction were likely to be the only ones ever produced. Sources are a bit muddled on when, but it seems that BSAA placed an order for three Princesses in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s for deliveries in 1953. However by 1949 BSAA was merged with BOAC by order of government. This way BOAC inherited the orders despite their fallowing interest, and by 1951 they had lost even that. A flicker of interest rose anew as the Princess, just like the Brabazon, were offered together with government trooping contracts. But just as with the Brabazon this offer was rescinded.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Image

It could have ended there, but Saunders Roe was actively shopping the aircraft around to other potential interests. While the P&O shipping line showed some, they wanted a yet larger flying boat! Saunders Roe dutifully designed the Saunders Roe Duchess. A jet powered behemoth of an aircraft intended for the Australia route. But this never left the drawing board. Proposals to reengineer the Princess with more powerful engines could have saved her as well, but development was dragging from 1951 onward with service estimated in 1956. Too little, too late. Finally the Ministry of Supply pulled the plug in 1954. A myriad proposals and near misses hovered around the stored Princess airframes until they were finally scrapped.

Picture courtesy of travelupdate.com
Image

It was the end for perhaps the most promising of the British post-war giants. The one someone, actually, wanted.

Source a mixture of Robin Highams book on BOAC and Peter London’s book “Saunders and Saro Aircraft since 1917”
 
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DrPaul
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:21 pm

A fascinating thread, well done! It would have been quite something had these planes reached airline use. It would have been great for me: growing up under the Heathrow approach with giant Convair 37s, Lockheed Constitutions and Globemaster-type DC-7s flying over my house. The closest thing to this was the occasional USAF C-124 Globemasters that would lumber across at 9000 feet on their way to Mildenhall or one of the German aerodromes.

One thing that strikes me about the Brabazon was that its streamlined appearance was rather spoiled by the big, old-fashioned hinges on the vertical and horizontal control surfaces.
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 1:59 pm

Looking at the silhouettes in the original post, there are two large French designs about which I knew nothing: the SNCASE SN2010 Armagnac airliner and the SNCAC NC211 freighter. There are Wikipedia pages on them at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCASE_Armagnac and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCAC_NC.211_Cormoran that give a brief account of them.

I can't help mentioning the big French plane whose silhouette appears above even though it went into production and thus wasn't a failure (and was an occasional visitor to Heathrow when I was young): the Bréguet 763 Deux-Ponts, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%A9guet_763_Deux-Ponts. Compared to the other designs illustrated above, they were seriously weird in appearance; I don't know what the designer was thinking of when he drew it up on the drawing-board.
 
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Phosphorus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 2:48 pm

An addition to the American list -- I think Hughes H-4 Hercules
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_H-4_Hercules
should get a mention. The idea was a powerful one -- if U-boats sink shipping with torpedoes, just fly over water, torpedoes don't reach you.

Soviets with the entire Ekranoplan program should be mentioned, if we include Wing-In-Ground effect vehicles in the count.
Both Alexeyev's program -- like the Ekranoplan, Orlyonok and Lun:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspian_Sea_Monster
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lun-class_ekranoplan
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-90_Orlyonok

And Bartini-Beriev project was a large one too:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartini_Beriev_VVA-14

A large airliner, used mainly for propaganda purposes, Maxim Gorky:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_ANT-20

A pre-war flying boat, also from Tupolev:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_ANT-22
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:00 pm

DrPaul wrote:
Looking at the silhouettes in the original post, there are two large French designs about which I knew nothing: the SNCASE SN2010 Armagnac airliner and the SNCAC NC211 freighter. There are Wikipedia pages on them at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCASE_Armagnac and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCAC_NC.211_Cormoran that give a brief account of them.

I can't help mentioning the big French plane whose silhouette appears above even though it went into production and thus wasn't a failure (and was an occasional visitor to Heathrow when I was young): the Bréguet 763 Deux-Ponts, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%A9guet_763_Deux-Ponts. Compared to the other designs illustrated above, they were seriously weird in appearance; I don't know what the designer was thinking of when he drew it up on the drawing-board.


In a part three I hope to go through, among others, the Deux Posts and Armagnac, but I admit it will be the shortest as I speak no French and sources, generally, are few.

But from what I can gather the Armagnac was simply underpowered and overweight. Her design was also aimed at being a roomy transatlantic sleeper. For which Sud-Est, apparently, felt an oversized fuselage cross section was required. But this configuration never appeared as she didn't have the legs required for transatlantic service. The cavernous unused space also meant extra drag. She was also supposed to use a 4+3 arrangement for high density passenger service, but this ran into regulatory hurdles just as she was supposed to enter service. The French opposing four seats abreast in a row. To add salt to the wound she used a constant thickness gauge fuselage thickness, unlike the pioneering Brabazon. Adding weight and reducing economy further.

Turboprops were proposed and trialled, but production ended before the turboprop equipped examples were set to be introduced on the production line.
 
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macsog6
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:37 pm

Turboprops were proposed and trialled, but production ended before the turboprop equipped examples were set to be introduced on the production line.[/quote]

The turboprop version of the Armagnac would likely have not be successful either as the powerplant proposed for the turboprop version (in addition to a few other engines) was the ill fated Allison T40, essentially two T38 engines, driving counter-rotating props. The T40 did not enjoy success on any application, arguably the Convair R3Y was the only successful installation and even that can be said to have been a flop as only 11 were built (with two additional P5Y).

The most noticeable installation was on the various vertical takeoff projects of the 1950's such as the Convair XYF Pogo and Lockheed XFV, as well as the use on the infamous XF-84H Thunderscreach.

One can only imagine the noise that four T40's would have generated on an Armagnac as it crawled across the pond.
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armagnac2010
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:50 pm

DrPaul wrote:
Looking at the silhouettes in the original post, there are two large French designs about which I knew nothing: the SNCASE SN2010 Armagnac airliner and the SNCAC NC211 freighter. There are Wikipedia pages on them at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCASE_Armagnac and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNCAC_NC.211_Cormoran that give a brief account of them.

I can't help mentioning the big French plane whose silhouette appears above even though it went into production and thus wasn't a failure (and was an occasional visitor to Heathrow when I was young): the Bréguet 763 Deux-Ponts, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%A9guet_763_Deux-Ponts. Compared to the other designs illustrated above, they were seriously weird in appearance; I don't know what the designer was thinking of when he drew it up on the drawing-board.


The NC211 Cormoran was designed as a military transport and was never intended for commercial service. It was outdated before flying. The company (SNCAC) went belly up shortly after the project was cancelled.

The Breguet 763 and the SE 2010 were more interesting.

The Armagnac went in production, nine in total, one prototype was destroyed suring flight test, seven served in commercial service and one became an engine test bed for Snecma. The Armagnac was too big and too heavy for its time. While designed to serve the north Atlantic routes it never did as it could not compete with the Super Constellation and its compound engines. Its cabin was designed around a concept of small cabin allowing seating to be transformed into beds, pretty much like in a railroad car sleeper, each of them provided with a window. The floor was lowered. The concept did not fly but the design retained a very high cabin with few windows. It was used on an airbridge between France and Indochina and after Vietnam became independent, used by a charter airline (SAGETA) supplementing regular air carriers on various services, until 1958.

Image

Image

Twenty Breguet Deux Ponts were manufactured; one 761 prototype, tree 761S intended for commercial use - one briefly used by Silver city - but sold to the military, twelve 763 ('Provence') for Air France out of which six were later sold to the military, and four 765 for the armée de l'air ('Sahara'). It was not pressurized and was a somewhat simpler design. They served until the early 70s, both at Air France and in the armée de l'air. It proved a sturdy and reliable aircraft; more could have been sold but Breguet lacked the industrial and financial capacity to do so.

For both the max pax capacity was close to 110, significant for its time. Beyond being commercial failures the aircraft share a common trend of having mid-height wings, crossing the fuselage. It was the result of aerodynamic optimisation but was somewhat burdensome, especially on the Armagnac, cutting the cabin in two, with stairs to go above the wing center box. Both designs were thoroughly tested before being allowed into service and had a very good in-service record; the lessons learned with the Latécoère 631 (a couple were lost in accidents) were not forgotten.

The lessons of the Armagnac commercial failure were also not forgotten; it was realised competing head on against American long-range designs was futile and costly. Instead the effort went into a mid-range jetliner, the SE 210 Caravelle. The Armagnac is of the ancestors of the Airbus, and remains the biggest pure French aircraft ever.
Last edited by armagnac2010 on Thu Jun 17, 2021 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Prost
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 3:56 pm

This is a great thread, thank you for putting it together. I may be an outlier, but I think it would be fun if you could somehow furnish an A380 with amenities like a cruise ship And hop to different destinations. I know it would be prohibitively expensive, especially as the fleet gets drawn down by major carriers, but these older designs spark the imagination of where the industry could have gone.
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 17, 2021 8:46 pm

Leovinus wrote:
You can watch a fascinating YouTube video by Curious Droid (A channel I can highly recommend) on the Rolls Royce Crecy engine here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxK_zWgw6gY


Great video, just checked that out! Would have been awesome to see film of it and to hear it, as the presenter says.

armagnac2010 wrote:
The Armagnac went in production, nine in total, one prototype was destroyed suring flight test, seven served in commercial service and one became an engine test bed for Snecma. The Armagnac was too big and too heavy for its time. While designed to serve the north Atlantic routes it never did as it could not compete with the Super Constellation and its compound engines. Its cabin was designed around a concept of small cabin allowing seating to be transformed into beds, pretty much like in a railroad car sleeper, each of them provided with a window. The floor was lowered. The concept did not fly but the design retained a very high cabin with windows. It was used on an airbridge between France and Indochina and after Vietnam became independent, used by a charter airline (SAGETA) supplementing regular air carriers on various services, until 1958.

The lessons of the Armagnac commercial failure were also not forgotten; it was realised competing head on against American long-range designs was futile and costly. Instead the effort went into a mid-range jetliner, the SE 210 Caravelle. The Armagnac is of the ancestors of the Airbus, and remains the biggest pure French aircraft ever.


Great information here, I did not know about this aircraft. There are many interesting French aircraft - I only recently learned of the Latécoère 631 and the Latécoère 521 and 522 flying boats, for example. Really enjoyed your post and thanks so much for adding pictures. It really helps to understand thing better. Nice work!
I do enjoy a spot of flying, especially when it's not in economy!
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:47 pm

A German flying boat from 1920's that galvanized the world's imagination, and launched the next round of flying boats design race: Dornier Do-X probably shouldn't be forgotten:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dornier_Do_X

She was the world's largest flying boat at the time of introduction. With three built, she almost bankrupted Dornier. But the public was mesmerized, designers worldwide rushed to outdo her, often copying ideas.
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Mon Jun 21, 2021 8:26 pm

Interestingly... could the the DC-7 / C-74 Globemaster for Pan Am be the first known “twin-aisle” cabin? At least in conceptual plans as show in the illustration.

Image

This is quite an impressive innovation by Douglas Aircraft.
Aesthetically the A 340 got it right!
 
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:20 am

KlimaBXsst wrote:
Interestingly... could the the DC-7 / C-74 Globemaster for Pan Am be the first known “twin-aisle” cabin? At least in conceptual plans as show in the illustration.

Image

This is quite an impressive innovation by Douglas Aircraft.


The DC-7 version of the Globemaster didn't have a wide enough fuselage to provide a comfortable high density twin isle. I've misplaced my book at the moment so I can't give you the exact specification. The picture you're linking to is of the Bristol Brabazon however, which in parts of her fuselage probably could have used two isles. There was some interest in BEA using the single one built for European routes, and it would likely have used higher density seating. Though how they would have payed it out in practice is not something I know (but would love to learn).
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Tue Jun 22, 2021 6:15 am

 
KlimaBXsst
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:04 am

aristoenigma wrote:
https://www.airlineratings.com/news/brabazon-palace-skies/

Almost a Queen,


Thank you for the clarification. I really was under the impression it was a mistaken cut-away image originally. The nose and cut-away make the Brabazon look so different than the actual photos of the plane.

The central saloon is definitely 2-2-1 in configuration. The British do seem to have the first “twin-aisle,” plane in history, although it never went into full scale production.

I did find information on the DC-7 / C-74 Globe-master and the statistics indicated it was roughly a foot and a few inches wider than a current A320. Thanks again and regards.
Aesthetically the A 340 got it right!
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:45 pm

TW870 wrote:

I understand that CAB regulation made airlines compete on schedule, and thus that they needed to be able to advertise the fast schedule times of the DC-7 and Super Constellation, but if I was running an airline in the 1950s, I would have been tempted to just keep the DC-6, skip the -7 or Super Connie, and wait for the jets. Sure you had to stop more often and fly a little slower, but you could actually use the whole power chart and the engine would perform as expected. Fewer unscheduled stops and long delays.


In your hypothetical role as Bob Six or Juan Trippe circa 1955, what are your thoughts on turboprops in this time period? The Viscount sold pretty well and the Electra may have well been a sales success had it not been a little too close to the service entry of the 707 and DC-8 and had its devastating “whirl mode” issues. IIRC, Douglas’ DC-8 was originally supposed to be a turboprop DC-7 with a swept tail very reminiscent of the actual DC-8.

I’ve read in several books that the airline market’s quick jump to pure jets (led by the US airlines who had by far the largest aviation market at the time) was somewhat faster than expected, and that many expected turboprops to proliferate as the next logical step on long haul until pure jet transports could be further refined. However the 707’s success put paid to this idea (even if the initial models needed a stop on Gander on LHR-IDL) and like the 747 a decade later, every airline flocked to the 707 or DC-8 regardless of whether an Electra was a better choice for their respective route networks.
 
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Phosphorus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Tue Jun 22, 2021 9:38 pm

NOLAWildcat wrote:
TW870 wrote:

I understand that CAB regulation made airlines compete on schedule, and thus that they needed to be able to advertise the fast schedule times of the DC-7 and Super Constellation, but if I was running an airline in the 1950s, I would have been tempted to just keep the DC-6, skip the -7 or Super Connie, and wait for the jets. Sure you had to stop more often and fly a little slower, but you could actually use the whole power chart and the engine would perform as expected. Fewer unscheduled stops and long delays.


In your hypothetical role as Bob Six or Juan Trippe circa 1955, what are your thoughts on turboprops in this time period? The Viscount sold pretty well and the Electra may have well been a sales success had it not been a little too close to the service entry of the 707 and DC-8 and had its devastating “whirl mode” issues. IIRC, Douglas’ DC-8 was originally supposed to be a turboprop DC-7 with a swept tail very reminiscent of the actual DC-8.

I’ve read in several books that the airline market’s quick jump to pure jets (led by the US airlines who had by far the largest aviation market at the time) was somewhat faster than expected, and that many expected turboprops to proliferate as the next logical step on long haul until pure jet transports could be further refined. However the 707’s success put paid to this idea (even if the initial models needed a stop on Gander on LHR-IDL) and like the 747 a decade later, every airline flocked to the 707 or DC-8 regardless of whether an Electra was a better choice for their respective route networks.


True, US airlines (especially PanAm) forced the hand of the market to faster jet adoption, without giving turboprops a good shot (RAND study of the time was quite adamant excessive fuel consumption of jets made them good value for money for military use, and bad value for commercial use).
However, imagine if Boeing and Douglas carried on with building civilian prop planes.

As in our history, British would eventually sort out the difficulties with Comet, and Comet 4 would be plying the Atlantic in BOAC livery since 1958. If they had several years of uninterrupted successful operation (I would guess even months, rather), their competitors would notice losing revenue to BOAC's all jet service, vs. props. Operators from other countries would start buying Comets to compete. And that would include, at some point, Pan Am (they would hate to be outdone on the Atlantic by BOAC). And then US politics would start to kick in -- remember the ruckus JFK raised, when he heard Pan Am intended to buy foreign airplanes (Concorde?). There are multiple possibility from that point on.
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Wed Jun 23, 2021 6:29 am

Phosphorus wrote:
NOLAWildcat wrote:
TW870 wrote:

I understand that CAB regulation made airlines compete on schedule, and thus that they needed to be able to advertise the fast schedule times of the DC-7 and Super Constellation, but if I was running an airline in the 1950s, I would have been tempted to just keep the DC-6, skip the -7 or Super Connie, and wait for the jets. Sure you had to stop more often and fly a little slower, but you could actually use the whole power chart and the engine would perform as expected. Fewer unscheduled stops and long delays.


In your hypothetical role as Bob Six or Juan Trippe circa 1955, what are your thoughts on turboprops in this time period? The Viscount sold pretty well and the Electra may have well been a sales success had it not been a little too close to the service entry of the 707 and DC-8 and had its devastating “whirl mode” issues. IIRC, Douglas’ DC-8 was originally supposed to be a turboprop DC-7 with a swept tail very reminiscent of the actual DC-8.

I’ve read in several books that the airline market’s quick jump to pure jets (led by the US airlines who had by far the largest aviation market at the time) was somewhat faster than expected, and that many expected turboprops to proliferate as the next logical step on long haul until pure jet transports could be further refined. However the 707’s success put paid to this idea (even if the initial models needed a stop on Gander on LHR-IDL) and like the 747 a decade later, every airline flocked to the 707 or DC-8 regardless of whether an Electra was a better choice for their respective route networks.


True, US airlines (especially PanAm) forced the hand of the market to faster jet adoption, without giving turboprops a good shot (RAND study of the time was quite adamant excessive fuel consumption of jets made them good value for money for military use, and bad value for commercial use).
However, imagine if Boeing and Douglas carried on with building civilian prop planes.

As in our history, British would eventually sort out the difficulties with Comet, and Comet 4 would be plying the Atlantic in BOAC livery since 1958. If they had several years of uninterrupted successful operation (I would guess even months, rather), their competitors would notice losing revenue to BOAC's all jet service, vs. props. Operators from other countries would start buying Comets to compete. And that would include, at some point, Pan Am (they would hate to be outdone on the Atlantic by BOAC). And then US politics would start to kick in -- remember the ruckus JFK raised, when he heard Pan Am intended to buy foreign airplanes (Concorde?). There are multiple possibility from that point on.


Interestingly Pan Am actually ordered the Comet 2 which was intended as a transatlantic capable development to the Comet 1. But the crashes put these and many other orders to rest. With the launch of the Boeing 707 De Havilland lost any chance of gaining marketshare with the major American Airlines. Though Capital Airlines did make a purchase order for the Comet 4, but it merged with United before the order was completed and the planes were dropped.

The British aircraft industry was also ill-equipped to break into high volume markets at the time. Had Pan Am ordered say, 20, and expected swift delivery they'd been sorely disappointed. TWAs mercurial owner Howard Hughes test-flew and wished to buy Bristol Britannias on the spot, but stipulated a volume upwards of 30 for swift delivery. Bristol would have had to shift other customers orders to deliver, and BOAC refused to be shunted around. BOAC was merely seeing to their interests as an airline in that regard, even though that decision doomed the Britannia sales prospects abroad in a sense. The same would be repeated for Comet orders as BOAC was not overly lenient in delaying deliveries of their aircraft. They were after all the major investor in the aircraft and expected a return on both their money and their patience. Being dropped like a hot stone when it suited aircraft manufacturers was obviously not conducive to a good working relationship. But it all stemmed from the fact that Britain never had the manufacturing ability of the Americans, and could therefore never compete on scale.

But who knows? If TWA had gotten the Britannia it might have been enough to expand Bristols manufacturing facilities, thus negating that disadvantage for the future. The only company I know that survived a massive industrial expansion in advanced of expected sales that never came is Dassault with their Mercure. And to my knowledge it's because the French state was very supportive of their prime fighter manufacturer. And another what-if would have been American turboprop development to counter the Britannia had it gained ground there. Perhaps the mooted Constellation turboprops and proposed turboprop DC-8 would have seen the light of day. Turboprops are and were simply more economical, though I suspect jets would have won out on long haul where the speed advantage is very noticeable. So jets would have come at some point no matter what.
 
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Phosphorus
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Wed Jun 23, 2021 7:34 am

Turboprops (with the obvious exception of Tu-114/Tu-95 family) have a lower speed than jets. It's kind of a "Captain Obvious" statement, and yes, passengers like to reach their destinations faster.
But there's also a CAPEX issue. If you try to do long haul in head-to-head competition of slower planes and faster planes (with serious speed differences, not trivial ones), owner of faster planes can do more segments in the same time. Saving mightily on the CAPEX, as they need less frames to serve the same network.
So yeah, a world full of long-range turboprops would be very possible. And also quite vulnerable, as long as
1) commercial competition was the name of the game
2) investments into jet tech by militaries was not fully insulated from commercial market
The leakage of jet technology into civilian marketplace was fairly difficult to contain, so it was a matter of time until someone took the ball and ran with it.

Also, Cold War willy-waving and measuring contest was a thing. USSR made a furor when Tu-104 jet started showing up in places behind the Iron Curtain. You think the public in the West would not speak up "Commies fly jets, why are we denied this?" or something of that nature?

About Britain not prepared for large orders -- well, it's subject to debate of course. They did build plenty of military aircraft not too long before that time. I guess the distributed (vs. concentrated) nature of that effort was something to look at -- plenty of smaller production sites were the result of historical industry structure, plus unwillingness to concentrate everything into a single place, risking a knock-out raid by Luftwaffe. Possibly, if a distributed production system, with multiple sites handling identical aircraft as parallel assembly lines, could be achieved -- that higher throughput was possible. Of course, that wouldn't be easy.
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ClassicLover
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Wed Jun 23, 2021 11:48 am

Leovinus wrote:
Interestingly Pan Am actually ordered the Comet 2 which was intended as a transatlantic capable development to the Comet 1. But the crashes put these and many other orders to rest. With the launch of the Boeing 707 De Havilland lost any chance of gaining marketshare with the major American Airlines. Though Capital Airlines did make a purchase order for the Comet 4, but it merged with United before the order was completed and the planes were dropped.

The British aircraft industry was also ill-equipped to break into high volume markets at the time. Had Pan Am ordered say, 20, and expected swift delivery they'd been sorely disappointed. TWAs mercurial owner Howard Hughes test-flew and wished to buy Bristol Britannias on the spot, but stipulated a volume upwards of 30 for swift delivery. Bristol would have had to shift other customers orders to deliver, and BOAC refused to be shunted around. BOAC was merely seeing to their interests as an airline in that regard, even though that decision doomed the Britannia sales prospects abroad in a sense. The same would be repeated for Comet orders as BOAC was not overly lenient in delaying deliveries of their aircraft. They were after all the major investor in the aircraft and expected a return on both their money and their patience. Being dropped like a hot stone when it suited aircraft manufacturers was obviously not conducive to a good working relationship. But it all stemmed from the fact that Britain never had the manufacturing ability of the Americans, and could therefore never compete on scale.


Pan American ordered the Comet 3, which ended up not going into production. They placed an order for three aircraft with seven options in October 1952 at an estimated cost of US$6,300,000. Delivery was expected in 1956 for the first three, and the options were for 1957. Source is here - http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,890441,00.html

Your comment is also wrong with regards to "They were after all a major investor in the aircraft and expected a return on both their money and their patience" referring to BOAC. The airline was not a major investor in either the Bristol Britannia or the de Havilland Comet. They were the major customer for the aircraft, and due to the way the British aircraft industry operated at the time, the state owned airlines, BOAC and BEA, had huge influence on the design of the British airliners. They were not a major "investor" in any of the programmes from a financial perspective, which is what your comment implies.

You're very correct on the manufacturing in Britain though. Apparently the Americans couldn't believe how the aircraft were manufactured in the UK. It was essentially very like hand making the product, as opposed to the efficient American methods. Looking at it, the UK was great at invention and design, but shocking at production and sales. The Americans were excellent at production and sales, but certainly were behind the curve for quite a period of time. A shame they didn't join forces early on.
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Leovinus
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Wed Jun 23, 2021 5:28 pm

ClassicLover wrote:
Pan American ordered the Comet 3, which ended up not going into production. They placed an order for three aircraft with seven options in October 1952 at an estimated cost of US$6,300,000. Delivery was expected in 1956 for the first three, and the options were for 1957. Source is here - http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,890441,00.html

[...]They were not a major "investor" in any of the programmes from a financial perspective, which is what your comment implies.


Correct you are, the Comet 3. Slip of the finger.

While I didn't specify how they invested, they did invest. Enormously. BOAC bore the burden of route proving, manuals for handling the aircraft, the economics of the aircraft, and staked the future of the company on the Comet (and the Britannia) to be their two aircraft fleet. They also attached their name to it and in a sense performed the marketing of it, which meant that they either raised the manufacturer or got tarnished as the product failed (such as the Comet 1, sadly). All of this work was done in cooperation with aircraft manufacturers, naturally, but is something that e.g. Boeing would primarily do on their own for their clients and then spread the cost as part of development. And BOAC did this while also paying for the aircraft, though being granted "preferred customer" status. But again this didn't always mean much. BOAC was rather peeved as Aerolineas Argentinas were given prices, and BOAC being asked to give up slots for them, that stretched what could be considered sporting towards their agreement. Though government intervened (gently) and BOAC eventually agreed to the sale and the shunting of production slots.

It's precisely for this reason that BOAC appears somewhat inflexible at times and working against the nations best so to speak. But they had plenty of reason considering how much they had given up to support these ventures.
 
TW870
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Wed Jun 23, 2021 10:53 pm

Leovinus wrote:
Phosphorus wrote:
NOLAWildcat wrote:

In your hypothetical role as Bob Six or Juan Trippe circa 1955, what are your thoughts on turboprops in this time period? The Viscount sold pretty well and the Electra may have well been a sales success had it not been a little too close to the service entry of the 707 and DC-8 and had its devastating “whirl mode” issues. IIRC, Douglas’ DC-8 was originally supposed to be a turboprop DC-7 with a swept tail very reminiscent of the actual DC-8.

I’ve read in several books that the airline market’s quick jump to pure jets (led by the US airlines who had by far the largest aviation market at the time) was somewhat faster than expected, and that many expected turboprops to proliferate as the next logical step on long haul until pure jet transports could be further refined. However the 707’s success put paid to this idea (even if the initial models needed a stop on Gander on LHR-IDL) and like the 747 a decade later, every airline flocked to the 707 or DC-8 regardless of whether an Electra was a better choice for their respective route networks.


True, US airlines (especially PanAm) forced the hand of the market to faster jet adoption, without giving turboprops a good shot (RAND study of the time was quite adamant excessive fuel consumption of jets made them good value for money for military use, and bad value for commercial use).
However, imagine if Boeing and Douglas carried on with building civilian prop planes.

As in our history, British would eventually sort out the difficulties with Comet, and Comet 4 would be plying the Atlantic in BOAC livery since 1958. If they had several years of uninterrupted successful operation (I would guess even months, rather), their competitors would notice losing revenue to BOAC's all jet service, vs. props. Operators from other countries would start buying Comets to compete. And that would include, at some point, Pan Am (they would hate to be outdone on the Atlantic by BOAC). And then US politics would start to kick in -- remember the ruckus JFK raised, when he heard Pan Am intended to buy foreign airplanes (Concorde?). There are multiple possibility from that point on.


Interestingly Pan Am actually ordered the Comet 2 which was intended as a transatlantic capable development to the Comet 1. But the crashes put these and many other orders to rest. With the launch of the Boeing 707 De Havilland lost any chance of gaining marketshare with the major American Airlines. Though Capital Airlines did make a purchase order for the Comet 4, but it merged with United before the order was completed and the planes were dropped.

The British aircraft industry was also ill-equipped to break into high volume markets at the time. Had Pan Am ordered say, 20, and expected swift delivery they'd been sorely disappointed. TWAs mercurial owner Howard Hughes test-flew and wished to buy Bristol Britannias on the spot, but stipulated a volume upwards of 30 for swift delivery. Bristol would have had to shift other customers orders to deliver, and BOAC refused to be shunted around. BOAC was merely seeing to their interests as an airline in that regard, even though that decision doomed the Britannia sales prospects abroad in a sense. The same would be repeated for Comet orders as BOAC was not overly lenient in delaying deliveries of their aircraft. They were after all the major investor in the aircraft and expected a return on both their money and their patience. Being dropped like a hot stone when it suited aircraft manufacturers was obviously not conducive to a good working relationship. But it all stemmed from the fact that Britain never had the manufacturing ability of the Americans, and could therefore never compete on scale.

But who knows? If TWA had gotten the Britannia it might have been enough to expand Bristols manufacturing facilities, thus negating that disadvantage for the future. The only company I know that survived a massive industrial expansion in advanced of expected sales that never came is Dassault with their Mercure. And to my knowledge it's because the French state was very supportive of their prime fighter manufacturer. And another what-if would have been American turboprop development to counter the Britannia had it gained ground there. Perhaps the mooted Constellation turboprops and proposed turboprop DC-8 would have seen the light of day. Turboprops are and were simply more economical, though I suspect jets would have won out on long haul where the speed advantage is very noticeable. So jets would have come at some point no matter what.


Great question NOLAWildcat, and Phosphorus' discussion here is really informative. Prior to reading Phosphorus' post, my mind - as a hypothetical Bob Six or Juan Trippe - went to the Britannia immediately. If Bristol could have built them fast enough, and if I could have actually made the deal in the context of intense U.S. economic nationalism in the 1950s, I would have been temped to buy the Britannia instead of the less capable L1649A or the DC-7C. But what I would have also known as an airline CEO was that the J57 and J75 jet platforms were performing very well for the Air Force. I would have been tempted to hope that the swept-wing subsonic design and turbojet technology from the B-52 and KC-135 programs would have been a strong enough prospect to skip a big investment in a new turboprop like the Britannia. Whereas the DC-7 and Super Constellation platforms never performed as advertised due to the unreliability of the R-3350, the 707 and DC-8 performed exactly as advertised. It changed everything to have a product that could meet schedule in a reliable way. But after all the problems with piston thermodynamics, icing on the Bristol Proteus, and the Comet Crashes, I doubt I would have assumed the American jets would perform as well as they did.
 
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Thu Jun 24, 2021 6:53 am

TW870 wrote:
But after all the problems with piston thermodynamics, icing on the Bristol Proteus, and the Comet Crashes, I doubt I would have assumed the American jets would perform as well as they did.


Just as a quick aside on the Bristol Proteus, the issues with icing on it were overblown by BOAC. For reasons that no one quite understands. And it cost Bristol plenty of sales and delayed the aircraft needlessly. The reason for the issue was that the intake had to make a u-turn before reaching the turbine, a design that was needed for the intended engine mounting on the Brabazon and Saunders Roe Princess apparently (I'm no engine engineer). In very specific circumstances ice would build in this u-turn and dislodge, causing a flame-out. Which was a bit of a surprise for Bristol as the engine had been extensively tested for icing in Canada. But the immediate solution was, don't fly the aircraft in the thin band of atmospheric conditions where this specific icing condition existed. The engine itself would restart just fine with little if any damage to it. And in order to reduce the issue even further Bristol developed a glow-plug system whereby glow plugs within the turbine would simply reignite the fuel/air mixture the moment an engine flamed out. It basically felt like a little hiccup and all was well again.

Now "a little hiccup" isn't particularly reassuring to passengers, but considering the piston engines more temperamental life I'm not personally convinced that passengers of the time would have reacted adversely to it. But BOAC made quite the hubbub of it. So instead of a glow plug fix and an engine revision down the line the entire program was delayed! Not to mention that the conditions for this specific icing condition was incredibly small! Flying over or under it where it appeared would have been a matter of hundred feet or so.

The Proteus did have another flaw initially, and it was with the straight cut gears in the gearbox. But this issue was fixed quickly. Though it might have led to the loos of sales to KLM, whose representatives were aboard when an engine seized in flight. Leading to a controlled crash in the severn estuary.

If you're curious about the development and man behind much of the proteus and the Britannia I highly suggest Stanley Hookers autobiography "Not much of an engineer"
 
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TheFlyingDisk
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Thu Jun 24, 2021 8:34 am

Looking at all the unsuccessful giants, I think the adage "if it looks right, it flies right" holds true. None of the big giant planes of that era looks right to me.
I FLY KLM+ALASKA+QATAR+MALAYSIA+AIRASIA+MALINDO
 
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macsog6
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Thu Jun 24, 2021 3:22 pm

In looking at the Saunders-Roe Princess in greater detail, I came across (in Wikipedia) information about a proposed Saunders-Roe Queen. Now this would have been a true Giant had it ever been built.

Despite the failure of the Princess, Saro (as Saunders-Roe was occasionally called) was contacted by J. Dundas Meenan, consulting engineer from the firm Heenan, Winn & Steel, on behalf of the Peninsular & Oriental (P & O) shipping company. He was interested in a plane that could carry at least 1,000 passengers under the conditions of comfort of an ocean liner. Saro proposed project P.192, a 670-ton seaplane powered by 24 Rolls-Royce RB.80 Conway jet engines with 18,500 lb (8,400 kg) of thrust each. The aircraft was designed to have flown at a cruising speed of 450 mph (720 km/h) and an altitude between 30,000 and 39,000 ft (9,000 and 12,000 m). Its range would have been 2,100 mi (3,400 km). The route between London and Sydney had already been planned, via Cairo, Karachi, Calcutta, Singapore and Darwin (Australia).

The fuselage would have had 5 decks with passengers divided into 6 person compartments with seats that could convert into berths for the night, in a similar fashion to railway carriages. First class passengers would have had their own bars, dining rooms and washrooms. A galley would have served all decks via freight elevator. The crew was to have consisted of 7 flight crews with their own rest quarters, and 40 cabin crew, as well as a steward as on a liner.

The engines were installed away from the hull to avoid spray ingestion on takeoff and landing. They were to have been supplied with air through intakes in the leading edge of the wing during flight, and another set of intakes on the top of the wing while on the water.

Water rudders facilitated manoeuvring on the water.

Neither P & O nor the government were willing to finance the project, it did not go beyond the stage of the drawing board.

One can only imagine!
Sixty Plus Years of Flying! "I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." - Saint Ex
 
TW870
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 12:49 am

Leovinus wrote:
TW870 wrote:
But after all the problems with piston thermodynamics, icing on the Bristol Proteus, and the Comet Crashes, I doubt I would have assumed the American jets would perform as well as they did.


Just as a quick aside on the Bristol Proteus, the issues with icing on it were overblown by BOAC. For reasons that no one quite understands. And it cost Bristol plenty of sales and delayed the aircraft needlessly. The reason for the issue was that the intake had to make a u-turn before reaching the turbine, a design that was needed for the intended engine mounting on the Brabazon and Saunders Roe Princess apparently (I'm no engine engineer). In very specific circumstances ice would build in this u-turn and dislodge, causing a flame-out. Which was a bit of a surprise for Bristol as the engine had been extensively tested for icing in Canada. But the immediate solution was, don't fly the aircraft in the thin band of atmospheric conditions where this specific icing condition existed. The engine itself would restart just fine with little if any damage to it. And in order to reduce the issue even further Bristol developed a glow-plug system whereby glow plugs within the turbine would simply reignite the fuel/air mixture the moment an engine flamed out. It basically felt like a little hiccup and all was well again.

Now "a little hiccup" isn't particularly reassuring to passengers, but considering the piston engines more temperamental life I'm not personally convinced that passengers of the time would have reacted adversely to it. But BOAC made quite the hubbub of it. So instead of a glow plug fix and an engine revision down the line the entire program was delayed! Not to mention that the conditions for this specific icing condition was incredibly small! Flying over or under it where it appeared would have been a matter of hundred feet or so.

The Proteus did have another flaw initially, and it was with the straight cut gears in the gearbox. But this issue was fixed quickly. Though it might have led to the loos of sales to KLM, whose representatives were aboard when an engine seized in flight. Leading to a controlled crash in the severn estuary.

If you're curious about the development and man behind much of the proteus and the Britannia I highly suggest Stanley Hookers autobiography "Not much of an engineer"


Wow I never knew any of that. That is really striking given that the failures of the R-3350 - which the Proteus was basically competing with - were usually catastrophic. The typical R-3350 failure involved the breakup of core components of pistons, and especially of the supercharger and power recovery turbine assemblies. These were really dangerous, because if you didn't catch them immediately and instead let the engine run as it was failing, you would suffer oil contamination. Since the propeller governor used engine oil, oil contamination meant you often lost the ability to feather the propeller, and lost the ability to control it at all, which led to overspeeds and engine fires. I always assumed the Proteus issues were more fundamental. It is really too bad, because I think there is a very distinct counter-history where the Britannia could have been an in-between airliner for companies like Pan Am and TWA. The long haul sequence would have been DC-4 then DC-6/L749 then Britannia then 707. But I think that really would have depended on the Britannia having gone into service earlier than it did. A 1957 EIS for a TWA Britannia would have been pointless, as it was a whole new paradigm but with a way better airplane on short final! I feel like a jerk saying this because I love the Super Constellation and Starliner and am so glad they operated it as thoroughly as they did. But, like it or not, the Super Connie was a relatively heavy, slow, unreliable airplane despite its unmatched style.
 
cpd
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 6:11 am

Another failure was the Rolls Royce Griffith supersonic vertical take off airliner.

No way that could have been successful. Designed by Dr A.A. Griffith. It was never built.

56 engines (!!!) for vertical takeoff and 12 for cruise flight…. Hmm…
 
GDB
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 10:48 am

Phosphorus wrote:
Turboprops (with the obvious exception of Tu-114/Tu-95 family) have a lower speed than jets. It's kind of a "Captain Obvious" statement, and yes, passengers like to reach their destinations faster.
But there's also a CAPEX issue. If you try to do long haul in head-to-head competition of slower planes and faster planes (with serious speed differences, not trivial ones), owner of faster planes can do more segments in the same time. Saving mightily on the CAPEX, as they need less frames to serve the same network.
So yeah, a world full of long-range turboprops would be very possible. And also quite vulnerable, as long as
1) commercial competition was the name of the game
2) investments into jet tech by militaries was not fully insulated from commercial market
The leakage of jet technology into civilian marketplace was fairly difficult to contain, so it was a matter of time until someone took the ball and ran with it.

Also, Cold War willy-waving and measuring contest was a thing. USSR made a furor when Tu-104 jet started showing up in places behind the Iron Curtain. You think the public in the West would not speak up "Commies fly jets, why are we denied this?" or something of that nature?

About Britain not prepared for large orders -- well, it's subject to debate of course. They did build plenty of military aircraft not too long before that time. I guess the distributed (vs. concentrated) nature of that effort was something to look at -- plenty of smaller production sites were the result of historical industry structure, plus unwillingness to concentrate everything into a single place, risking a knock-out raid by Luftwaffe. Possibly, if a distributed production system, with multiple sites handling identical aircraft as parallel assembly lines, could be achieved -- that higher throughput was possible. Of course, that wouldn't be easy.


It’s true that the need for wartime dispersal was a factor in the shape of the UK industry post war, though there were many smaller almost cottage industry companies, there were also much larger ones like VIckers, which had absorbed the famous Supermarine before WW2, as well as Armstrong Whitworth, did everything from aircraft, ships, tanks, essentially a key element of what would now be called the MIlitary-Industrial complex.
(For more on this and how it worked I can recommend ‘Britain’s War Machine’ by David Edgerton, which exposes the myth of British amateurism compared to so called Nazi German efficiency, the opposite was true, only once the US really ramped up was there anything to match and overhaul it).

The issue post war was being virtually bankrupted after the conflict, however the UK had leads in many areas, not least jet engines.
Having to suspend any work until mid to late war on any dedicated commercial aircraft, the idea to look long and hard at the needs of an uncertain post war civil market was far sighted, even if being a case of necessity being the mother of invention with no off the peg designs the US had from in particular Douglas and Lockheed.
Hence the radical ideas, one notoriously the Comet in its initial form, paid the price of being so far ahead, though the modified versions could have been in service a bit sooner, which would have garnered more sales but not changed the fundamentals of newer designs from Boeing and Douglas overhauling it.
(This is why I think the cancellation of the VIckers V.1000 was really in hindsight wise, buried engines, even the RR Conways planned for this type, for airliners had by then had run its course).

What was galling was the whole Britannia/Howard Hughes drama/screw up, is when you consider that not that long afterwards another line WAS established, at Shorts in Belfast, to build 20 of them for the RAF.

With all these giants of the 1940’s planned or built but not to enter commercial service, the two issues I think that prevented this were the lack of a real mass market and the pax used to luxury had their high speed ocean liners back, what they were used to, which seemed safer and more reliable. Then the technology to make viable large capacity airliners was 20 years in the future, though even the liners started losing trade once the 707/DC-8 came along in the late 1950’s.

It is ironic that of all the designs the commitee considered, the most successful were the smaller ones, the pioneering VIscount and even the modest Dove earned the most vitally needed foreign currency for post war Britain.
 
Ziyulu
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 11:23 am

Prost wrote:
This is a great thread, thank you for putting it together. I may be an outlier, but I think it would be fun if you could somehow furnish an A380 with amenities like a cruise ship And hop to different destinations. I know it would be prohibitively expensive, especially as the fleet gets drawn down by major carriers, but these older designs spark the imagination of where the industry could have gone.


I remember reading articles saying the A380 will have a casino, gym, bars, showers, etc a few decades ago. How many airlines actually did it?
 
GDB
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 12:18 pm

Ziyulu wrote:
Prost wrote:
This is a great thread, thank you for putting it together. I may be an outlier, but I think it would be fun if you could somehow furnish an A380 with amenities like a cruise ship And hop to different destinations. I know it would be prohibitively expensive, especially as the fleet gets drawn down by major carriers, but these older designs spark the imagination of where the industry could have gone.


I remember reading articles saying the A380 will have a casino, gym, bars, showers, etc a few decades ago. How many airlines actually did it?


A certain beaded UK airline CEO mentioned them, when he ordered 6 in 2001.
Not that his airline ever took delivery of any A380's let alone any fitted with outlandish interiors.
 
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armagnac2010
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 1:30 pm

Leovinus wrote:
TW870 wrote:
But after all the problems with piston thermodynamics, icing on the Bristol Proteus, and the Comet Crashes, I doubt I would have assumed the American jets would perform as well as they did.


Just as a quick aside on the Bristol Proteus, the issues with icing on it were overblown by BOAC. For reasons that no one quite understands. And it cost Bristol plenty of sales and delayed the aircraft needlessly. The reason for the issue was that the intake had to make a u-turn before reaching the turbine, a design that was needed for the intended engine mounting on the Brabazon and Saunders Roe Princess apparently (I'm no engine engineer). In very specific circumstances ice would build in this u-turn and dislodge, causing a flame-out. Which was a bit of a surprise for Bristol as the engine had been extensively tested for icing in Canada. But the immediate solution was, don't fly the aircraft in the thin band of atmospheric conditions where this specific icing condition existed. The engine itself would restart just fine with little if any damage to it. And in order to reduce the issue even further Bristol developed a glow-plug system whereby glow plugs within the turbine would simply reignite the fuel/air mixture the moment an engine flamed out. It basically felt like a little hiccup and all was well again.

Now "a little hiccup" isn't particularly reassuring to passengers, but considering the piston engines more temperamental life I'm not personally convinced that passengers of the time would have reacted adversely to it. But BOAC made quite the hubbub of it. So instead of a glow plug fix and an engine revision down the line the entire program was delayed! Not to mention that the conditions for this specific icing condition was incredibly small! Flying over or under it where it appeared would have been a matter of hundred feet or so.

The Proteus did have another flaw initially, and it was with the straight cut gears in the gearbox. But this issue was fixed quickly. Though it might have led to the loos of sales to KLM, whose representatives were aboard when an engine seized in flight. Leading to a controlled crash in the severn estuary.

If you're curious about the development and man behind much of the proteus and the Britannia I highly suggest Stanley Hookers autobiography "Not much of an engineer"


Wow I never knew any of that. That is really striking given that the failures of the R-3350 - which the Proteus was basically competing with - were usually catastrophic. The typical R-3350 failure involved the breakup of core components of pistons, and especially of the supercharger and power recovery turbine assemblies. These were really dangerous, because if you didn't catch them immediately and instead let the engine run as it was failing, you would suffer oil contamination. Since the propeller governor used engine oil, oil contamination meant you often lost the ability to feather the propeller, and lost the ability to control it at all, which led to overspeeds and engine fires. I always assumed the Proteus issues were more fundamental. It is really too bad, because I think there is a very distinct counter-history where the Britannia could have been an in-between airliner for companies like Pan Am and TWA. The long haul sequence would have been DC-4 then DC-6/L749 then Britannia then 707. But I think that really would have depended on the Britannia having gone into service earlier than it did. A 1957 EIS for a TWA Britannia would have been pointless, as it was a whole new paradigm but with a way better airplane on short final! I feel like a jerk saying this because I love the Super Constellation and Starliner and am so glad they operated it as thoroughly as they did. But, like it or not, the Super Connie was a relatively heavy, slow, unreliable airplane despite its unmatched style.


BOAC was goddam right to refuse the Proteus as initially proposed. Bristol tested the engine without the inlet and should not have surprised at all, considering its shape it could be a problem - they were responsible for both the engine and the airframe! The issue with such icing conditions phenomenon is that it is affecting all engines at the same time. Even if the engine(s) is/are restartable, flying a big glider in the middle of icing conditions is definitevely unsafe.

For the R-3350, it is interesting to note the SE 2010 Armagnac, while using the same Wasp Major engine, did not have such catastrophic failure conditions. The Armagnac used a Curtiss propeller with electrical regulation, which avoided the failure mode described above. The engine reliability was nevertheless very average, with a least one case of double engine failure during a flight.
 
cpd
Posts: 6787
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 7:04 pm

Ziyulu wrote:
Prost wrote:
This is a great thread, thank you for putting it together. I may be an outlier, but I think it would be fun if you could somehow furnish an A380 with amenities like a cruise ship And hop to different destinations. I know it would be prohibitively expensive, especially as the fleet gets drawn down by major carriers, but these older designs spark the imagination of where the industry could have gone.


I remember reading articles saying the A380 will have a casino, gym, bars, showers, etc a few decades ago. How many airlines actually did it?


Emirates definitely did the bar and shower. I never used the shower but the bar was great (pre Covid obviously).

I’m fairly certain some non A380 planes had bars too.
 
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HowardDGA
Posts: 29
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Re: The Giants That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 10:00 pm

cpd wrote:
Ziyulu wrote:
Prost wrote:
I’m fairly certain some non A380 planes had bars too.


Continental DC-10 Pub
 
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tenHangar
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:39 pm

Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Fri Jun 25, 2021 10:23 pm

C-74 Globemaster in The Italian Job.

Image
 
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Phosphorus
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Re: The Giant aircrafts That Failed

Sun Jun 27, 2021 10:55 am

If we go back to interwar era, USSR produced Kalinin K-7, a dual-purpose bomber/transport. With maximum takeoff weight of 46+ tons, it had potential to go either way.
However, first the prototype crashed, then politics (Mr. Tupolev's lobbying, presumably) killed the project (figuratively), and then the Great Purge killed (literally) the designer.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalinin_K-7
a couple of images, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Image
Image
AN4 A40 L4T TU3 TU5 IL6 ILW I93 F50 F70 100 146 ARJ AT7 DH4 L10 CRJ ERJ E90 E95 DC-9 MD-8X YK4 YK2 SF3 S20 319 320 321 332 333 343 346 722 732 733 734 735 73G 738 739 744 74M 757 767 777
Ceterum autem censeo, Moscovia esse delendam
 
MIflyer12
Posts: 9850
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Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Sun Jun 27, 2021 1:04 pm

Phosphorus wrote:
Turboprops (with the obvious exception of Tu-114/Tu-95 family) have a lower speed than jets. It's kind of a "Captain Obvious" statement, and yes, passengers like to reach their destinations faster.
But there's also a CAPEX issue. If you try to do long haul in head-to-head competition of slower planes and faster planes (with serious speed differences, not trivial ones), owner of faster planes can do more segments in the same time. Saving mightily on the CAPEX, as they need less frames to serve the same network.

That's an interesting idea but it presumes an open, competive long haul international market which we certainly did not have in the 1950s. Some developed countries still have frequency restrictions to limit competition with their own carriers. (Canada, to name one.)
 
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Phosphorus
Posts: 1289
Joined: Tue May 16, 2017 11:38 am

Re: The Giant aircraft That Failed

Sun Jun 27, 2021 7:59 pm

MIflyer12 wrote:
Phosphorus wrote:
Turboprops (with the obvious exception of Tu-114/Tu-95 family) have a lower speed than jets. It's kind of a "Captain Obvious" statement, and yes, passengers like to reach their destinations faster.
But there's also a CAPEX issue. If you try to do long haul in head-to-head competition of slower planes and faster planes (with serious speed differences, not trivial ones), owner of faster planes can do more segments in the same time. Saving mightily on the CAPEX, as they need less frames to serve the same network.

That's an interesting idea but it presumes an open, competive long haul international market which we certainly did not have in the 1950s. Some developed countries still have frequency restrictions to limit competition with their own carriers. (Canada, to name one.)

Correct, those were the times when bilaterals were strict, to the point of airlines forcing their governments to reign in a foreign competitor, who would offer better food, or more legroom on the country-to-country routes. As in "stopping unfair competition". I think there are even threads on this site describing all those. Of course, fares were identical, published, and quite transparent, IATA made sure of that.

However, having said that, you (and here I mean both the flag carrier and its countries authorities acting in unison) cannot limit your competitor's aircraft speed; at least once they leave your ATC area, that is. As a result, when on a given country (and/or city) pair, you have two competitors, with identical everything measurable (except breadth of FA smile) being identical -- fares, comfort, food, everything; except one is flying jets at 0.86 M or thereabouts, and the other flies pistons or turboprops at a significant speed disadvantage -- pax would leak to a carrier offering them advantage -- of course if they are free to choose.

So on the Atlantic, whoever had jets, would be at an advantage. On multi-stop long-distance itineraries, like "Kangaroo route" or around-the-globe itineraries (like PanAm 1 or PanAm 2) all-prop operator would be even more disadvantaged, once anyone with jets showed up...
AN4 A40 L4T TU3 TU5 IL6 ILW I93 F50 F70 100 146 ARJ AT7 DH4 L10 CRJ ERJ E90 E95 DC-9 MD-8X YK4 YK2 SF3 S20 319 320 321 332 333 343 346 722 732 733 734 735 73G 738 739 744 74M 757 767 777
Ceterum autem censeo, Moscovia esse delendam

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